Posts Tagged ‘california beach culture’

A Day at the Beach

Friday, May 13th, 2011
California Glide

California Glide

My parents moved to California when I was four. It was at that time when I saw my first surfer gliding to shore on the South Side of the Manhatten Pier. We lived in a walk up a couple blocks from the beach. I have no idea why a four year old would retain such sharp memories. I can only assume he was getting his foundation tutored to him by the land and sea.

In the years since, I have seen a LOT of change in this State. My understanding of the place comes from a deep connection to our ocean based culture here in California, and is rooted in my genes  and experiences acquired while running and founding a plethora of businesses as well as my current career as a commercial and editorial Photographer, Writer and Film Maker.

This is the first in a series of blogs that will examine my home. California: land of the warmly toned sun rise and yes, sun set. She is struggling a bit more than other places right now. So I thought that maybe a look from my perspective may be a good thing to proffer. It is a very beautiful place.  Most of the time.

Dawn's Early Light

Dawn's Early Light

“A Day at the Beach”

Dawn Moonset and Fog

Dawn Moonset and Fog


In the late fifties and sixties, it was the allure of California Beach Culture that drew people from all over the US, to California. The promise of sun, sand, surf, freedom and a burgeoning economy, were this brilliant siren song that caused us to eventually become the 7th largest  economic entity in the world.


The State utilized the talent and passion of that large influx of people, seeking golden shores and fair weather, to build all manner of things.


People needed jobs, so they set about designing and assembling the accoutrements of what would eventually affect the popular culture of the globe.

One of those funny little projects, which was manufactured both in Oakland and Van Nuys, was the Corvair. The Euro styled little car was designed as the answer to the VW Beetle and Renault. It soon disappeared into a sort of time warped oblivion as a mainstream effort. Big block V8 muscle cars of the day, took advantage of an abundance of cheap fuel and the need to haul families around in a little bigger vehicle, and became the design direction to be followed.

Here is a great little piece on the Corvair by Jay Leno. I find people like Jay, one of the better, and more enjoyable aspects of Californian popular culture.

Here is another by Chevrolet.

California has always set trends. The Corvair was decades ahead of it’s time.

And the fashion, which has arisen as a result of surfing and our beach lifestyle, quite frankly, is stronger and more influential now than ever before.

Deep Magazine recently offered me the chance to do a swimwear shoot. The theme was up to me. My answer was to hearken back to what made our Fashion develop and endure, our State grow and flourish, and what today, still offers a laundry list of assets that continue to lure: the California Coast, a rich and beautiful Ocean, pretty girls, and lots of laughter, fun, and our own, very unique lifestyle.

A day at the beach is almost always pretty special. I bet just reading this, you will recall some of yours.

Seth Godin has this to say about being an exceptional brand. For that is what California really is: a brand.

Click on any of the images below to toggle through as a slide show.

The “Models” are all surfers. But why wouldn’t they be?

Hans Rathje, Lars Rathje, Ruby Kernkamp, Jentry Huntington, Taylor Bruynzeel, Alma Billgren

Assts: Joshua Pu’u: 1st , Angela Izzo, 2nd and 2nd camera, Dante Sigismonde 3rd

Stylist: Donna Von Hoesslin

Hair and MU: Donna Von Hoesslin, for Betty B, and  Meagan Scott  for Boyandarrows.

Car wrangler, owner, camera car operator: Keith Huot

Project Coordinator: Andres Nuno for Deep Magazine

Sea Within

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
The Sea Within

The Sea Within

I once met a man who inspired me greatly. At his encouragement, I went on to accomplish all manner of things in the ocean. Of course it was not by his urging alone, but for some reason, he was my catalyst, and the reaction which occurred as a result of his input, wed my life to the sea.

Many years later, as I sat with a writer pal of mine at the man’s home on the sand near Santa Barbara, he recounted his life before the Multiple Sclerosis morphed him into a creature who could do no exploits. “I lived my entire life in the span of 8 years” he had said. He did grand and wonderful things at the helm of a dory, a sailboat, paddleboard, and on a surfboard. He lived his ocean experience in a time when the grand and golden California burgeoned and beckoned to the world at large with a pristine ocean, replete with salty, gusto laden vitality.



As I knelt down, and apologized for my lens which set dead square upon him for a memorial portrait, he looked me straight in the eye and said: “Don’t you just love the feel of that cool crisp water, as it envelopes you?”

And at that point I “got it”.

What a gift.

Soul and Heart

Soul and Heart

Mason Van Valin says it well with Ghost Love


Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Galaxy Borne

Galaxy Borne

The third in a series on Loves.

Surfers. Yes, those who ride weather, water and wave. I love them.

The rapid thunk thunk thunk of footsteps atop the wooden stairs that led up to the flat I had rented that morning at Currumbin Beach, Queensland, jolted me out of my jetlag induced reverie. I had been in Australia for less than 12 hours and had somehow managed to get from Sydney to Coolongatta and into a flat with a rental car in that time. Not bad, but I was tired. It was the second leg of the 1978- 1979 Pro tour for me.

An insistent pounding at the door, had me curiously opening it to a tall tanned guy, who looked at me, smiled and said: “Hey, my name is Peter. I hear you are from the States, here to surf the Contest. The surf is good today. Let’s go!” And in ten minutes I had thrown my 5’9″ Progressive twinfin in the back of Pete’s brown Holden wagon, and we were off to my first surf at Duranbah, a punchy beachbreak. As I paddled out, I saw Rabbit threading a crystal clear, aqua blue barrel. Wow. Welcome to Oz!

Pete and I became fast friends by the time I had to leave to make the trek down to Bells for the next event.

A few days before I left, a huge cyclone swell had hit. I had ridden large Burleigh Heads. Pete had said he would be at work, but that I should jump it from the cove up the point. The double to sometimes triple or more times overhead, looming rights, sort of reminded me of Sunset Point on Oahu. I somehow managed to stuff my little twin into a few of the bigger sets, and streaked across the massive azure walls to kick out in front of the swimming pool that was beach side.

That evening I saw Pete,  we had a couple 4xes, and I told him about the avo, bummed that he could not be there. “Ah mate, it was okay. I had a good day anyhow”.

A couple months later, back in Santa Barbara, just home from a day working at the surfboard factory, a large letter was waiting for me at the apartment my wife and I shared. It was from QLD. Opening the brown cardboard, I slid out a photo that was inside. It was of me streaking the inside on a triple overhead barrel at Burleigh Heads. There was a note. “Thought that you might like this” and it was signed simply: Pete.

He had been photographing me. I did not even know that he was a photographer.

What I learned from that year on the tour in general, and from Pete in particular, is that surfers are special.

I do not follow professional surfers around, in spite of having been one. To me, surfers are not necessarily the ones whose tax returns read “Professional Surfer”. But they are the ones who live by the laws of earth, sea and God, and having such an intimate acquaintanceship with those elements, frequently manage to show me something special.

Another World

Another World

So I have always welcomed them, and endeavored to live up to the example of my fine Australian friend.

Now about that photo…….

Click on any of the images in the gallery to toggle through this brief edit. Images were shot in the last couple weeks on the Canon 5D Mark 2 system and are part of a new collection of close to 600 images built over the past 5 weeks swimming every day. The surfers are Lars and Hans Rathje, Chris Vail, Larry Ugale, Donna Von Hoesslin, Jeanette Ortiz, Sierra Partridge, Dave and Mary Osborne. I am very grateful to them all. They remind me of Pete.

Surfing is for Everybody

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011


William Orbit gets it. Click on this link if you want a  soundtrack for this blog

Had a gal come by yesterday who was working on a College thesis at Syracuse, and had asked if she could interview me about the changes that I had seen on the coast in my lifetime.

Wound up talking about how, in spite of the ocean doing pretty well, (My homestretch of coast used to be littered with innumerable oil piers which were dark, pitch stained fingers, laying across the bright blue of surf lineups. They are all pretty much gone now. Removed.)  that there seems to be a well intentioned, albeit nonsensical movement to keep people out of the ocean. It is being done at the behest of several Environmental groups and one large Govt agency.

Let's Regulate this! (Or not)

Let's Regulate this! (Or not)

So I gave several instances of things that raised my ire and in counterpoint, also offered some common sense solutions to ocean pollution which our society tends to overlook.

But at the end of our interview it occurred to me, that nothing pisses me off more than some functioning elite deciding who gets to use the beach or ocean, and endeavors to regulate that for their own gain. Whether it be more waves for themselves, a fat money coffer, or to sustain some useless Government job.

It sucks. I hate it.

Surfing is for everyody.

So is the sea.

Learn about it.

Do something constructive.

Maybe just go ride a wave.

This link is to a reality show teaser that I worked on for Silent Crow, about Betty B, and some women who surf and love the ocean.

Seth Godin said something today in his blog that made me add it to this thread today. It is right on the nose and can help you.

The following images are a few glimpses of surfing and the ocean shot this past week. Click on any of them to toggle through as a slide show. Everything in this blog was shot on the Canon 5D Mark 2 system



Modus: Light and Water

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
Joe Curren

Joe Curren

“How many shots did it take to acquire this one?” It is a good question. I hear it a lot. Here is how it works…

Learn your craft. Buy the right camera and lens setup. Build-acquire the housing. Figure out optics in water. Watch weather.  Select a swell, tide, surf break, weather pattern with the correct potential combination. Wake at 4 am,



Prep your gear. Have a little coffee, but not too much because you do not want to pee in your wetsuit during morning feeding hour, and sharks feel the charge from your camera body and sometimes come for a look. Curious cats, they usually lurk outside of view. But not always.

 The Lavender Fields

The Lavender Fields

Pull on wetsuit and fins, in the cold offshore darkness. Step into grey-black water, as the light comes up on the eastern horizon. Feel the cold rush, as you swim under the first line of whitewater.  Tend to the port on the housing and protect your gear as you try to avoid a beat down. Then, outside the surfline, you find the peak you think exists, and not unlike surfing, you stalk your wave. The light is good for ten minutes, optimal for ten minutes and average for about a half hour after that, but you stay out for hours, making that 36 frame roll of film last, because that is what you do.

Dan Malloy

Dan Malloy

The really intriguing part is just being there. You never want that to end.

Editor Jeff Divine once asked: “Do ever shoot anything not during golden hour?”

“Only if I have to Jeff”



Though I am a big proponent of contemporary digital capture, I have to admit that I do not use the motordrive or the near unlimited load that exists now, with big storage memory cards. Quantity does nothing for me, in acquiring the things that I do. Planning, persistence and passion do.  So the game is pretty much the same. All of these images are film captures. Just what I was working on this week, as I created something for a project.

It is all about light, and water, vision and persistence.

Larry Ugale

Larry Ugale

The funny thing for me, is that although I am continually surprised at what I find in my stills files, I shot all of these same subjects in motion picture. An older cross section of that work is contained here. I need to build some new reels. Time…….passes.

All of this requires effort. Seth Godin examines the subject here.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.